In the following interview, the people responsible for the ‘Westküste 100’ living laboratory project – Volker Malmen, CEO of Orsted, and Jürgen Wollschläger, CEO of Heide Refinery – report on the current status of their project proposal.
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “What is the principal aim of the Westküste 100 project?”
Orsted/Heide Refinery: “Making air travel, construction and heating more sustainable – that’s the aim of the Westküste 100 living laboratory project. To achieve this, we aim to model a regional hydrogen economy on an industrial scale and then scale it up. The conditions for this are particularly ideal on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein. They include, for example, the combination of a region with high wind energy potential with excellent geological conditions for storage.
Companies and institutions are collaborating across sectors for the Westküste100 project: EDF Deutschland, Holcim Deutschland, Open Grid Europe, Ørsted, the Heide Refinery, Stadtwerke Heide, Thüga, and Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions – together with the Heide Regional Development Agency and FH Westküste University of Applied Sciences. The aim of the project is to use the wind energy in North Germany to produce hydrogen on an industrial scale and thereby achieve decarbonisation of heating, transport and industry.
The core of the project is its R&D approach towards producing green hydrogen using offshore wind energy, and using the waste heat and oxygen generated by the process. The aim is then both to use this green hydrogen to produce climate-friendly fuels for aircraft, and also to feed it into gas networks. The idea is to use a cavern storage system to store the hydrogen, so that the available wind energy can be converted into a continuous material flow for industrial use. Hydrogen from the electrolysis process and unavoidable CO2 from regional cement production in Schleswig-Holstein will be used for the fuel production process.”
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “What are the main steps and milestones of the project, and what is your estimated timeframe?”
Orsted/Heide Refinery: “We reached our first important milestone at the start of April 2019, when we submitted our project sketches for the Westküste 100 living lab for the ‘Living Laboratories of the Energy Transition’ ideas competition organised by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. Living laboratories provide an opportunity to fast-track the transfer of technology and innovation from research into practice. They enable us to develop technical and non-technical ideas and innovations under real-life conditions and on an industrial scale, and then try them out. On 18 July 2019, Peter Altmaier, Minister for Economic Affairs, announced the winners of the competition for ideas. The Westküste 100 project was one of the winners, as a result of which the project partners were requested to draw up a complete, detailed proposal. We submitted this, on time, on 31 March 2020. The decision-makers aim to reach a verdict by the beginning of August. If the news is positive, we could then start work. Within the 5-year timespan of the project, an important milestone will be the installation of an electrolysis plant in the first phase, with a capacity of 30 megawatts. It will supply us with data on the operation, maintenance, control and grid-viability of such systems, so that we can then progress these to the next stage, upscaling. The second phase of the project might, for example, consist of an electrolysis plant in the order of 700 MW. The electricity required for both phases of the project will be generated by an offshore wind park.
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “How did the idea for the Westküste 100 project come about?”
Orsted/Heide Refinery: “For nearly four years already, the Heide Regional Development Agency – which is also a Westküste100 partner – has been working on a scheme that aims to create the world’s first industrial-scale power-to-X demonstration environment. Called IN-ENTREE100, the scheme coordinates more than 60 partners and 25 topic areas. The latter include the topics of the seventh federal government energy research programme, which addresses decarbonisation of transport, industry and heating. The extensive network of partners in IN-ENTREE100, and the topics related to rebuilding Germany’s energy system in the federal government research programme, eventually brought together the very same companies that submitted the complete proposal for the Westküste 100 project at the end of March. Their aim was to link the various energy transition subprojects related to transport, industry and heating together to form one overall project, taking economic efficiency into account. And so the interdisciplinary Westküste 100 partnership that’s now been formed has created a plan for a cross-sectoral decarbonisation programme that can make a contribution to the energy transition.”
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “How could policy give even better support for the further development of hydrogen technology?”
Orsted/Heide Refinery: “Policy should focus on two aspects: the availability of affordable electricity and stimulating the demand for hydrogen. If we can expand the provision of affordable green electricity, then we can succeed in the electrification of both industry through power-to-hydrogen, and the transport sector through the manufacture of synthetic fuels. Offshore wind energy is the ideal technology for this. The potential for offshore wind in Germany alone amounts to around 60 GW and could be even higher if you factor in closer linking of sectors. The rate of expansion of offshore wind should, therefore, be increased to at least 2 GW per year and placed within a longer timeframe that makes it possible to plan ahead. Moreover, the way in which the taxation of this wind power is handled under EEC assessments will be crucial for the economic viability of Westküste 100. In addition, electrolysis can help to significantly relieve the electricity grid through the necessary current drain at the onshore nodal points. Producing the hydrogen by electrolysis supports net stability and relieves electricity customers in the area of grid-associated electricity price components, i.e. network charges and the statutory taxes and duties imposed on these.
The second aspect that needs to be addressed on the policy side is sustainable stimulation of the demand for hydrogen. Here what is needed is to implement the EU’s renewable energy guideline – known as RED II for short – in national law. This would give political decision-makers the opportunity to support the introduction of synthetic fuels. Additionally, the use of synthetic fuels to meet the automobile industry’s fleet CO2 targets must be considered in future at the EU level. The quota for synthetic fuels should reflect the contribution these fuels make towards decarbonisation.
Taken together, these regulatory adjustments and investments offer us a chance to implement cross-sectoral decarbonisation, achieve our climate targets in Germany and, ultimately, create new jobs.”
Many thanks for this interesting interview, and good luck!